Mainers to decide on R&D bond June 13

BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It may come as a surprise to many Mainers, but there is a statewide vote next week. Voters will be asked on June 13 to decide whether the state should borrow $50 million to help expand research and development work.

The referendum was actually passed by the legislature and signed by the governor last year, but lawmakers decided to delay the vote until this month because there was already a crowded referendum ballot last November.

Maine voters have approved several other R&D bonds in the past, with the most recent statewide bonds passed in 2010. Some of that money helped to build the new Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay, and money also helped expand facilities at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.

The bond funds that will be voted on next Tuesday would only be used for capital equipment and buildings, not to hire staff. The money would be managed by the Maine Technology Institute, which oversees other R&D bond funds.

MTI President Brian Whitney told NEWS CENTER the bonds would be a good investment for Maine.

"It generates a huge return on investment," Whitney said. "When you look at the $53 million invested in this program in the past, it has helped … attract $300 million of additional grants, and that doesn't even mention the match the businesses and research organizations are expected to deliver."

Whitney said the state's R&D bond funding has helped create or sustain nearly 2,000 jobs.

Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor has received a total of $10 million in state R&D funding over the past decade, and Vice President Mike Hye said that has led directly to an additional 200 jobs. He said there are a lot of other businesses and non-profits that could benefit from the new bond.

"I think this step by the legislature to make this money available in the state is absolutely crucial to growing the economy," Hyde said.

There is no organized opposition to the R&D bond, and there has been very little publicity about, either for or against. The vote on June 13 will be a normal state election day, with the usual polling places open in each community.

You can find more information on the Secretary of State's website.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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